Luckily Floridians are used to hurricanes as an Irish one blew in this past weekend! Yes, Maggie Gallagher flew over to join the dancers at the Tampa Bay Line Dance Classic! For the first time in seven years Maggie set foot on US soil and dancers excitedly turned out en masse to welcome her. In addition they were thrilled to see young Craig Bennett who has been turning out a string of very popular dances. Neville Fitzgerald and Julie are regular favourites here whereas for Francien Sittrop travelling from Holland, it was a first visit to Florida.
Arline Winerman, the Event Organizer, makes regular changes to her staff, bringing in new instructors and choreographers from the UK and Europe whom her dancers don’t normally get a chance to meet and as a result the event seems always new and interesting. At the same time, the US has many Line Dance Stars of its own who attract a large following. John Robinson is a regular at the event and is a favourite with everyone. Scott Blevins pulls in large classes as do the popular Michael Barr and Michele Burton. Junior Willis, who also is a talented clogger, is very well liked. Mark Cosenza and Glen Pospieszny are the Event Directors of a very successful event in Chicago, Windy City; Bracken Ellis-Potter flew in from California and Rosie Multari from New Jersey. There are always new faces from the US as well and this year Amy Christian-Sohn flew down from Michigan and Rob Glover, originally from the UK, traveled from Boston where he is now working in a dance studio.
Florida is blessed with excellent instructors and they always fill their classes at this event. This year instructing were Marilyn McNeil, Kathy G, Maurice Rowe, Sandy Albano, Patrick Fleming and Ferrell Mazzato. I was also delighted to travel down from Canada to teach at the event for the 7th year.
Attendance was bigger than ever this year and the floors were packed for many of the dances taught. The event starts with a free Thursday evening dance and then straight into workshops at 9 a.m. on the Friday morning going to 3 p.m. on Sunday. There are four rooms including one room for beginners/improvers and periods during the day are set aside for open dancing. Hardworking DJS as always, DJ Wildman Louis in the Main Ballroom, Big Dave welcomed back as DJ in the Foyer while Olivia Ray kept the floor moving in Timberwoods. Good floors in the rooms, all put down by hard working volunteers who spent a whole day working on them. We could probably have done with some more floor space for some of the classes but overall the space seemed to be fine. I like the intimacy of this event in that you’re always meeting up with people as you meander from room to room. There were excellent vendors this year and people enjoyed checking out their wares as they traveled from class to class.
Dance previews moved along fairly swiftly this year so dancers didn’t have to sit down too long. And again in the evening there were reviews of the dances taught so you could have a second go at the dance you learnt first thing in the morning!
Saturday morning brought the Pro-Am Competition. This is a terrific way to put your toe in the water if you’re interested in competing. Strictly for fun, you dance with your instructor beside you for confidence. All the contestants did well and certainly seemed to enjoy themselves as did their supporters.
The popular buffet started off the Saturday evening; sold out with 275 dancers sitting to eat. It was great to see all the different costumes as the theme was 'Countries Around The World'. Then onto the Show and there were some excellent performances which was started off with precision team work by The Sweet & Sassy Villages Line Dance Team led by Christine Bass followed by some chuckles with Maggie, John and Jill, and also Dolly Parton (aka Bracken Ellis) and Junior Willis. As well, Junior treated us to an excellent clogging routine and it was a treat to see John Robinson perform, what an impressive dancer he is. It was fun to join in Cumbia Semana with Ira Weisburd and Arline. Amy Christian was a delight for the eyes in her gorgeous costume and her enchanting, flowing dance. Ed from The Villages is an inspiration to us all. At age ? (at least 80+ I'm told!) he can cut a rug with the best of them and have us in stitches at the same time! And then Maggie took to the floor to tell us a little about Irish step dancing and to demonstrate some of the moves. At one point I swear she leapt three feet from the floor, she seemed literally to fly through the air. It was just a phenomenal performance and the audience barely breathed as they watched her. It was a hard act to follow but the Glitter Sisters led by Trish St. Denis glided smoothly through their routine with smiles that were returned by the audience.
So let’s recap. The Tampa Bay LD Classic is a very well attended event that manages to retain an intimate feel to it. There is a particular focus on the workshops with a wide range of instructors to choose from. The Doubletree Hotel was recently updated and if my room was anything to go by, the bed was one of the best I have slept in, plenty of soft large towels and a little balcony with a view over the swimming pool area. The Sports Bar serves very reasonable tasty food. I ordered a half portion of Cobb salad and for $6.50 I had enough to feed an army (maybe an exaggeration but you get my drift!). The main dining room had breakfast and dinner buffets, both good value, and Arline had arranged for a mini food court by the Ballrooms for a quick breakfast and lunch snack and that was popular. The hotel is close to the airport and a shuttle will pick you, it will also take you to the Malls for shopping if you wish. You are welcomed with my absolute favourite warm chocolate chip cookie; I will be forever grateful to the dancer who gave me hers as well!
Arline is a warm and welcoming host who genuinely cares about the dancers. She is always around and available for a chat and at the same time is very well organized. Her volunteers are dedicated and hardworking. However, unfortunately next year will be the last year Arline will host this event, she has decided to hang up her Tampa Bay line dance shoes. She will announce in January 2010 who will be taking over. I wish whoever it is every success, but at the same time I know dancers will keenly feel the loss of Arline at the helm. Thank you so much for all you have done and do for our line dance community Arline. The theme next year is Black and White and Arline wants to go out in style with lots of glitz!!!
DANCES TAUGHT (written by the Instructor unless otherwise noted):
These are the dances that were on the schedule; there were other dances taught in the sessions if time permitted.
Ain’t No Sunshine by Frank Cooper
Pop Lock & Drop by Shaz Walton
Rain Against My Window
Born To Be Blue
Walkin The Dog by Juliet Hauser
I’m, Moving On
Playing with Fire
Don’t Let It Go
Evacuate the Dance Floor
Coochie Bang Bang
Hell If I by Jo & John Kinser, Mark Furnell
Rumba Breeze by Michele with Michele Perron
Bitter Pill by Amy and Scott Schrank
Put Your Hands On My Waistline
Break The Dawn by Neville Fitzgerald, Paul McAdam,
Booty Music by Jo Thompson-Szymanski, Jackie Miranda,
Swin City Swing by Gary Lafferty
Say Hey Love
You’re Not Lost
Straight Thru by Neville & Julie Harris
You Got It All by Neville & Julie Harris
Can’t Get Involved by Neville & Julie Harris
Why So Serious by Neville & Julie Harris
When I Go Away
If I Could Change by Ruben Luna
Sister Kate by Ria Vos
All I Want Is You
Just Dance Away
Jig It Up
The One You Need by Rob and Roberto Corporan
Sambalera by Rob and Russell Jackson